by Russell Dobular
Personally, I believe in democracy. I believe that given accurate information and the necessary education to process it, a majority of people will correctly discern their own best interests and vote accordingly. But that’s very different from the situation that we have in America. What we have is a generation raised on the internet and born into an America coming apart in the wake of 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, and now a global pandemic, doing its own research and mostly tuning out official narratives, in conflict with an older generation that mistakes Anderson Cooper for Edward R. Murrow, and doesn’t seem to understand, or even want to understand, that the America they knew is long gone. For the latter, Joe Biden is familiar and comforting. For the former, his nomination is a cruel joke and in many ways a gob of spit in the eye of the people who are going to live with the consequences of his past policies the longest. 70% of voters under 50 voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries. Sev-en-ty percent. While much has been made on the op-ed pages of Biden’s demographic coalition, that coalition is a mirage. The single greatest predictor of Biden’s support isn’t race or gender or socio-economic status; its age. Old people took their cues from cable news and party leadership, while younger people tuned those voices out. Unfortunately, the elderly are much more reliable voters than the young, and as a result, Biden is on the verge of becoming the party’s nominee. But the nature of Biden’s geriatrically driven victory raises an obvious question: if young people didn’t come out in large numbers to support a candidate they were passionate about, what makes you think they’re going to come out on Election Day to cast a ballot for Joe Biden? For this reason alone, Biden is very likely to lose to Trump, with or without a formal #demexit.
Democrats seem to live in a fantasy world in which everything we know about human psychology and voter behavior can be suspended with the simple argument, “This candidate is better than (fill in the Republican), so you must vote for them.” If voters behaved that way in real life, Hillary would be the President right now. And Hillary was FDR in a pantsuit compared to Biden. If you’ve been running around attributing opposition to HRC from the left to sexism, you really don’t understand the left. Hillary’s gender was one of the few things a progressive could hang their hat on to justify voting for her. At least it would set a precedent. At least it was something. With Joe Biden there is zero rationale other than “better than Trump.” And that’s just not the potent argument that a lot of VBNW types think it is. Joe Biden is so bad, nominating him feels kind of like a double-dog-dare. It’s as if Democratic consultants and donors got together and decided to find out how bad a candidate would have to be to lose to Donald Trump a second time, and Joe Biden was what they came up with. You may not know a lot about his record now, but you will once The Donald begins to exercise his singular gift for controlling the media narrative. There’s not one accusation that can be thrown at Trump, from sexual harassment, to dishonesty, to nepotism, to racism, to crony capitalism, that can’t be turned back on Biden. Sure, Trump is worse on all counts, but not by much, and when Biden lies about getting arrested trying to meet Nelson Mandela, or about his civil rights activism, you can be sure Trump isn’t going let it pass like Bernie Sanders did. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Pretty much everything Biden said in the DC debate was a lie. But you’ll find that out soon enough when he’s facing an opponent who doesn’t go out of his way to describe him as his “friend” every five minutes.
Those are just some of the reasons why Biden will probably lose to Trump. There are many others, including his melting brain, that I haven’t gotten into because I know the propaganda machine has programmed VBNW voters to stop listening as soon as anyone points out his dementia symptoms. And no one is really thinking yet about how much of a gift having an opponent who helped pass the bank-friendly 2008 bailout is going to be for Trump, who is on the verge of sending everyone in America making under $99,000 a year, a check, probably the first of several. But it is my intention here to help people understand why this is happening, which I can’t do if they’re all raged out on Jennifer Rubin columns. So, what follows is a brief explanation and summary of what the last five years have looked like from the left’s point of view.
Most Sanders voters that I know, if they were old enough, voted twice for Barack Obama and were at one time just like you: hardcore Democratic partisans, who accepted the political wisdom of the Times editorial board as the “smart take.” Then 2016 happened, and for a lot of those people, the underlying assumptions they held about pretty much everything in the political realm were shattered by the way the primary was conducted. Without relitigating that whole nightmare, let’s just focus on where the left went one way, and VBNW went another: if you experienced those primaries through the lens of the Sanders campaign, the core belief that the only thing holding back progressive change was the Republicans, was made completely untenable, along with the accompanying belief that corporate media outlets had sympathies that could truly be considered “left,” or even “objective.” Once you no longer believe those things, and your political world isn’t defined by a struggle between good Democrats and evil Republicans, but by a class war between working people and wealthy elites, you’ve already left the Democratic party for all intents and purposes. After that, keeping your registration in order to vote for progressive primary challengers is just a formality. Functionally, you’ve already become an independent.
Now, flash forward to 2020. Once again, Bernie Sanders is running, only this time his base of support is largely made up of people who only continue to be Democrats in order to use the party machinery to affect progressive change. And a lot of them would have left the party already, if it wasn’t for Sanders signaling to his supporters after 2016 that changing it from within was the way to go. So, once again, they donate, they advocate, they canvass, and they phone bank. And while they’re doing all of these things, they’re being called “brownshirts,” dirtbags,” and “Bernie Bros.” They keep their heads down anyway and win the first three contests. It looks like this time is going to be different. They start to think that Democratic voters themselves have finally woken up and realized that rich pundits and consummate douchebags like Rahm Emanuel are the last people they should be listening to about “electability.” And then Biden wins SC by overwhelming numbers. Smelling blood in the water, the Democratic party establishment immediately coalesces around the most retrograde, least progressive candidate in the field, and executes a Monday night massacre on the eve of Super Tuesday that is breathtaking in its efficiency. And just like that, it’s over. So, what do you think a group of voters who were only Democrats of convenience at the start of the contest are going to do after months of being unfairly maligned and insulted by the same people who pulled out all the stops to make sure their candidate couldn’t win? Are they going to decide to suck it up and vote for a candidate they despise who’s running on the ticket of a party they are no longer a part of in any meaningful way, or are they going to conclude that Sanders’ project of reforming the party from within has been a failure and walk away? This isn’t a moral question, it’s a psychological one. You just can’t treat voters that way and not expect there to be fallout, much less voters who weren’t particularly connected to your party in the first place.
Another factor is the way that Democrats bend over backwards to court “moderate” voters and “Never Trump” Republicans, believing it to be the surest path to electoral victory. Aside from the fact that there’s no evidence to support this theory, and a lot of evidence to refute it (quick, name one Democratic candidate billed as “safe,” and “electable,” who actually won the election. I’ll wait), it also lays down the philosophical framework for a #demexit. If Democrats only seem to care about winning the votes of people whose votes aren’t guaranteed, and you’re trying to move the party ideologically, eventually it’s bound to occur to you that not being a Democrat is a pretty sweet deal. No one seems to vote-shame those independents and moderates. Indeed, when a Democrat loses, the blame is often directed at the party and the candidate for not doing enough to appeal to them. It is the unique privilege of the left to be held personally responsible for Democratic losses. Never will you see Jake Tapper sadly hang his head, sigh, and regretfully inform his viewers that the candidate didn’t do enough to reach out to the left. That there’s what they call in the news biz, “framing.” And the left is tired of getting framed for the losses of a party that’s done everything they can short of directly saying, “please don’t vote for us,” to drive them out.
So, now that you understand what’s happening and why, the best thing to do going forward would be to think of the left the same way you’ve been trained to think of independents and moderates: as swing voters who you want to persuade, rather than as Democrats who owe you their votes. Even though I hate to give that ravening psychopath a shout out, Gwyneth Paltrow has contributed a phrase to the culture that’s relevant here: conscious uncoupling. The left is now an ex that you want to maintain good relations with, and with whom you still need to coordinate visitation rights. So, next time you want to sit down at your keyboard and start spewing about Bernie Bros, take a second and think, “Is this going to make it easier to negotiate with my ex, or harder?” Then take a breath, and try to come up with an argument for voting blue that doesn’t involve Donald Trump, because I gotta tell ya, that really doesn’t impress the ex. Its one of the reasons they left you in the first place. Try to talk instead about your own admirable qualities. And when they point out things like how you held primaries in the middle of a pandemic in order to secure the nomination for your preferred candidate, try not to gaslight them. Listen, and consider that they might have a point, and think about what you can do to improve the relationship. You’re never getting back together, but you might be able to coordinate on certain projects and in certain elections. How that plays out from here is going to depend largely on your behavior. Are you going to consciously uncouple, or are you going to be the psycho ex screaming, “Vote Blue No Matter Who,” outside the window at 3AM, until someone calls the cops? How you choose is going to largely determine where we go from here. My money is on a Fatal Attraction kinda dynamic, but trust me, if you think the break-up is bad, you really don’t want to see the restraining order.